Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Got perseverance?

Like many of you, I’ve been glued to my TV watching a fair amount of news regarding Hurricane Sandy and its impact on the east coast. And of course, so many stations fluctuate between storm and election coverage. I was reflecting on how these top news stories share a common denominator – the need for perseverance.

I think you’d agree that this is one of the defining characteristics of our country. Success, however you might choose to measure it, rarely comes swiftly. People who succeed possess perseverance. Loads of it.

I happen to love that about our country. I love that the impossible can still be surmounted. I love that grit and determination still count. I love that people who persevere make things happen – large and small. This quality is behind every book I pick up, too.  I know a dedication to showing up at the keyboard, tears, elation, abandoned stories, a worn out library card and (possibly) chocolate cupcakes came before it's publication. There's no getting around these highs and lows; no short-cut to hard work. None.

Here’s a little glimpse of what my journey looked like. It doesn’t say anything special about me, other than the fact that I never stopped writing and putting myself out there. Most writers I know do the same thing.

1997: Remember when writers got actual rejections in the mail box? 

1997: I submitted a short story to the Hemingway Short Story Competition....

...and received an honorable mention. Encouragement!

1999: I started writing screenplays and here we learn I was
writing the "wrong material" at the time.  This was my first screenplay, so I tried something new.

2000: I won 7th place with a new script. Encouragement!

2002: Then I lost another one, but got a hand-written note that meant a lot. It meant I was improving my craft. I just hadn't found the "right" material.

For the next few years, I really produced my finest works ever - my two daughters. But I kept writing. 

2006, I finally got a YES for publication of my first adult novel.

2008: After 18 months, the publisher folded. Now I know this happens more than we'd like to admit, but it felt crushing at the time. 

2009: Back to the drawing board with a new novel.

2010: Got rejection? Well, yes, but this one actually riled me so much in a
positive way when she said "just write another book"  that I took her advice. I regrouped and realized a common comment was how I was writing the wrong kind of material. So I wrote a new novel which...

...turned out to be THIS little piece of work that will publish in 2013. Encouragement!  

As a writer, you have to love words. This is one of my favorite words.

Perseverance (noun) 1. Steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. (from dictionary.com) 

If you want to lead the free world, help rebuild your shining city, write a novel or pursue your dream, you've got to load up on this quality. And I hope you do!


Karen Harrington is the author of SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY, a middle grade novel from Little Brown Books for Young Readers, July 2013. Visit Karen at her website or on her Goodreads page.


  1. What a great post, Karen. I loved seeing your path in pictures.

  2. Such great advice for so many things in life, Karen. Thanks for sharing! Can't wait to buy SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY.


  3. Thank you Elisabeth. It was compelling for me to look through the reject file and look at those pics!

  4. Excellent post, Karen. I was just at a local SCBWI conference and heard a keynote speech by Jay Asher, author of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. He shared a journey similar to yours--almonst-wins, flat-out rejections, near-contracts. The overnight sensation is a rare thing indeed. Developing the chutzpah to stay the course is so much more valuable.

    1. Thank you, Claire. I love the word chutzpah! It's a great trait to have. Good to know that fact about Jay Asher.

  5. Fantastic post. So many people (i.e., those who haven't really tried) assume that getting published is just "luck." This post shows the true path of a writer: a LOT of hard work.